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The Caduceus: Symbol of the United States Navy Hospital Corps

The caduceus is worn by those who, because of their education and training, are driven by a desire to help others, to save lives, to reduce the effects of illness and injury in others.  It is an ancient symbol, but in the last two centuries it has taken on an exclusively medical connotation.  

United States Navy Hospital Corpsmen, who proudly wear the caduceus, as a symbol of their rating, or specialty, in conjunction with the symbols denoting their rank, work in a variety of capacities and locations.  They serve in shore assignments, such as naval hospitals and clinics, aboard ships, where they are frequently the only medical care provider, or in the battlefield while serving with various Marine Corps units.  The common form of address for a Hospital Corpsman is "Doc".   In the U.S. Marine Corps this term is generally used as a sign of respect.

I was privileged to serve with the United States Marine Corps for two of the four years of my 'hitch' as a Navy Hospital Corpsman: one year at Camp LeJuene, and thirteen months in Vietnam with Bravo Co. 3rd Recon Bn, 3rd Marine Division.   Serving with my brother Marines was one of the proudest times of my life.  In Khe Sanh and later, working eight man patrols out of Quang Tri, I earned my real right to wear that caduceus.  Taking care of the wounded at the time of injury, taking care of their minor complaints and illnesses, made the training I was given both at Naval Hospital Corps School, Great Lakes, Illinois, and in Field Medical Service School at Camp LeJuene, come to maturity.  I will never forget what I saw and did as a Corpsman.  But more importantly, I have never yet, since that time, seen men more courageous, more loyal, or more true to themselves than my 3rd Recon Marines.  There is no brotherhood quite like that between Marines and their Corpsmen.  It was an honor to wear the caduceus and to serve those fine men so long ago now.  To this day, nothing means more to me than being addressed as "Doc" by my Marine Corps mates.  To all my Marine brothers, let me say, Semper Fi!  I truly know what they mean when they call you "the few, the proud, the Marines."

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